About one-third of my Saturday was spent in the general environs of Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum, whose parking lot played host to the New York area stop of the skate/punk/emo/exercises in branding festival known as the Warped Tour. Not only were there some 100 bands playing condensed sets during the course of those eight hours, there were merch tents (one for each band on the traveling bill), signings, acoustic sets, petitions to sign, skaters performing tricks, free energy drinks, pro-vegetarianism propaganda, shutter-shade vendors, and a store with Barack Obama-branded items. Not to mention the chance to play Rock Band alongside the session musicians backing up this country’s current No. 1 song. After the jump, a rundown of the day. It will be somewhat disjointed, in honor of every single one of my joints aching after being subjected to parking-lot asphalt for most of the time.
THE BANDS: In rough order: I arrived just as The Academy Is… launched into their set, and once again, they were 100% enjoyable, playing two new songs and causing nearly every female in the audience to have conniption fits. Some band on a side stage covered Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” and it just about fell apart at the end, although their take on it made the song much more tolerable than L. Lewis’. Gym Class Heroes‘ set was very tight, blending a few new tracks with songs from their SUNY Fredonia era, and their cover of Lamb Of God was surprising both in its actually happening and its being kind of good. Japanese all-lady ska outfit ORESKABAND was ridiculously fun, and brought back skanking to Long Island, something I thought I’d never see again on my home turf. Disco Ensemble were a Finnish dance-rock act possessing both catchy songs and a rock-star exuberance that reminded me of Vains Of Jenna, who also brought a full-on arena spectacle to a crowd of about 50 people when I saw them open for Poison last year. The lead singer of You Me And Everyone We Know‘s pleading voice was very much in the Ted Leo vein, which isn’t all that surprising given that they, too, are from DC. The female-fronted British three-piece Tat played next to the skate ramp, which was fitting for their competent, if a bit cliched, punk. (The lead singer said her band was from “London town,” which should give you an indication.) Automatic Loveletter‘s first song came off like a slightly crunchier Paramore, but then lead singer Juliet Simms strapped on an acoustic and went barreling into Alanis territory, complete with too-long outro. Ludo charmed me for the entirety of their set, in large part because their frontman’s voice sounded like it belonged to a bookish alter ego of Placebo’s Brian Molko. Cobra Starship‘s “Guilty Pleasure” was probably my favorite song of the day. Against Me! had an older average audience than any other act I saw all day, and they were tirelessly good. Say Anything made me write the words “too many syllables” in my notebook, an opinion that I suspect will bring out many people who will tell me that I am a thousand per cent wrong. Bring Me The Horizon made the audience collectively freak out with its grimy British death metal, and then encouraged the audience to form a huge mosh pit, during which I saw many punches thrown. And then there was Katy Perry, about whom more in a second.
THE BOOTHS: Each band, each corporate sponsor, and various other entities had booths set up around the sidelines, where people could buy merch, collect free swag, sign petitions, or find out how to properly examine their breasts. My favorite one was the Rock Band tent, where I was given the chance to play the game for the first time. (Research, right? I do write about it.) And as it turned out, the drummer and one of the guitar players in my band were none other than sidemen for Katy Perry, a fact that I found out after I got a 90% for screaming the lyrics to “Creep” into the drummer’s ear. (I hope I wasn’t too loud!)
The line outside the AT&T-sponsored booth offering autograph sessions with the likes of Gabe Saporta and members of All Time Low was super-long for most of the day, as was the one leading into some Trojan-sposnored “ride” where people I think got free condoms at the end. (The swag was being inflated and batted around during various sunset sets. Safe sex, everyone!) Pretty much every booth offering a meet and greet had a long line leading to it, a fact that helped make it impossible for anyone to see everything, since maneuvering around them was sometimes a bit of a trick; there were certain artists with whom it was possible to spend pretty much your entire day, between watching their normal set, watching their acoustic sets in various tents, and waiting in line for them at a meet and greet.
And finally, the booth selling the following T-shirt gave me an anchor on which I could stand all day:
I like to think that this is the one point Pitchfork Music Festival attendees and those people at the Warped Tour can (maybe) agree on.
THE CLOTHES: Many people chucked off whatever shirts they were wearing and put on whatever apparel they’d purchased at the tents, which I guess means the “don’t be that guy” rule is as old as I am. Other popular Warped Tour fashions included: homemade shirts/chest-coverings advertising “free hugs” and “free kisses” (which, as the day went on, evolved into pleas for free blow jobs and breast-reveals from some dudes); bikini tops; Appetite-era Guns N’ Roses t-shirts (seriously, I saw about 10 of them); shutter shades of all colors; Chuck Taylors, natch; and plaid shorts.
THE CONFUSING MESSAGES: PETA and other pro-vegetarianism organizations were, perhaps unsurprisingly, out in full force, although vegetarian foodstuffs were few and far between; there were a few stands selling French fries, including one that was inside the Coliseum and on the opposite side of the parking lot, but fries and pretzels were pretty much it as far as non-meaty food options went. Which is less than ideal for something that runs through lunch and dinner. Perhaps this was an issue with Nassau Coliseum’s catering arm, but it sure did make me wish that the “vegetarian starter kit” one organization was handing out came with some soy dog samples. Also, for a festival that had its own booth touting its eco-consciousness, a) there sure were a lot of unopened bags of Doritos collecting in the corners and b) water was five freaking dollars a bottle.
THE END: Idolator bete noire Katy Perry was placed in the de facto “headlining” role for Saturday’s show, so I had pretty much nowhere to hide during her set. (Most of the merch tents had packed up by then, thanks in part to gusty winds that were causing many a banner to skip across the lot.) She was pretty much as annoying in person as I expected, and the guitar on “U R So Gay” sounded like it had been lifted directly from some Swap N’ Shop-worthy smooth jazz. Highlights, if you can call them that, included her taking a break to shout the word “PENIS!!!!” really loudly and prefacing her show-closing rendition of “I Kissed A Girl” with a call to her mom on a “bananaphone.” (I told a friend that I was somewhat surprised she wasn’t phoning home via hamburger, but perhaps even Perry thought that would have been too obvious.)
I did, however, enjoy that there were a few young ladies who took advantage of the mostly female crowd in front of Perry to hop up on top of everyone and crowd-surf. It was very ’90s. As was some of the feel of the festival–the activist tents, the Converse, the Long Island Roller Derby team that had a a tent (!!), the surprisingly high number of chick-fronted acts I happened to run into–although the piles of merchandise offered by every act did bring the proceedings smack back into the current century, what with every band on the bill needing to make some extra scratch thanks to the recorded-music business being in its current state. I would go back next year, sure. Although I would definitely try to find a way to smuggle in my own water bottle, and maybe a granola bar or two, if only to stave off the exhaustion that kicked into my old bones at around 6 p.m.